PHILADELPHIA, PA.- Freeman's
will offer works from New York fashion stylist Janet Brown's collection over the course of its 2012 spring and fall auction seasons. Two noteworthy groups of decorative objects, furniture and silver will be offered, first in the April 30 American Furniture, Silver and Decorative Arts, followed by the May 22 Fine English & Continental Furniture, Silver & Decorative Arts auction. On May 12, an outstanding suite of Brice Marden prints, a rare woodcut by Donald Judd and a drawing by Balthus will be sold in the Modern & Contemporary Art auction, along with nearly twenty other outstanding examples by American and European artists of the 20th century. Photographs and Asian works of art will be offered in September.
For socialites and successful, busy women, the advice and assistance of the late Janet Brown on matters of fashion and style was invaluable. From her small, white-walled boutique in the unlikely town of Port Washington on Long Island, New York, she styled women from all ports of call including London, Paris, South America, New York, Greewich and Long Island, to name a few, with a unique talent and vision that combined classic design, elegance, premier quality, and avant-garde taste. Ms. Brown understood the provenance of her customers as well as their world and inspired them to make something of themselves and always to be "ahead of the game."
As a New York tastemaker, her clients relied on her for an introduction to the most current and influential European couture designers like Jil Sander, Miuccia Prada, and Loro Piana before they were ever accessible in the United States, let alone Manhattan's most prestigious, high-profile stores. Ms. Brown believed in her sense of style and abided by her basic rule of only buying premium quality merchandise that exuded understated elegance. Following her death at 59 in March 2007, her eponymous shop closed after almost a quarter-century of profoundly influencing the taste and fashion sensibilities of her devotees.
Above all, she was selling the taste of Janet Brown, and that taste had its origins in her native Philadelphia. While still a student at Temple University, Brown had the good fortune to work with Nan Duskin at her elegant store on the 1700 block of Walnut Street. Her employment there served her well when she moved to New York and opened her shop in 1983, just in time to make her unique retail operation a triumph, as independent designer boutiques were disappearing because popular, couture designers were establishing their own shops, and department stores were in a flurry of expansion.
Brown's ability to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary made her hugely successful. She quickly rose to become one of the most respected elite of the women's fashion industry. These attributes are reflected in the tasteful items Freeman's will be offering this spring and fall.
Among 20th century art works, the Marden prints are particular standouts. Suzhou I-IV are named for an area in China celebrated for its breathtaking rock gardens. The refined aesthetics and meticulously crafted vistas that have been an elevated Chinese art form for centuries often are centered around 'scholar's rocks' sometimes painstakingly transported to these gardens at great effort and expense. During his 1995 visit to Suzhou, Marden said he 'got it' all at once, when the famous Cloud-Capped Peak, a magnificent 6.5 meter limestone rock came into view. It was instantly apparent to him how a rock could be the subject of veneration. He purchased his own scholar's rock in 1995, and is said to keep several fine examples in his studio.
Marden's sweeping, continuous lines evoke the carved crevices and smoothed surfaces of stones shaped by the elements over centuries, along with nuanced references to Chinese calligraphic script. It is not difficult to imagine that Janet Brown appreciated the aesthetic of the minimal, elegant line at work in these captivating prints.
Janet also expressed, not surprisingly, a keen interest in collecting figurative artists, especially those who celebrated the classic human form. One such example is a beautiful nude drawing, Nu debout by French painter Balthus, who was a contemporary of Pablo Picasso and close friend of Alberto Giacometti. The drawing may have hung for a time in Brown's small, extraordinary shop, but in more recent years hung in her bedroom in Oyster Bay, New York. This work, along with the Brice Marden prints and a lovely abstraction by Donald Judd will be offered in Freeman's May 12 sale of Modern & Contemporary Art.